Three weeks after a protest by Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) against construction of railway tracks to Shillong turned violent, several groups in Meghalaya have announced a fresh agitation on the issue from Wednesday.
The Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP), the Hynniewtrep National Youth Front (HNYF) and the Ri Bhoi Youth Federation (RBYF) have backed the KSU’s stand against taking the tracks into the Khasi Hills region.
They have said they would first stage a sit-in in Shillong, and continue the agitation with other programmes.
“Our point is that once completed, the lines will open the floodgates and lead to influx of outsiders, particularly illegal Bangladeshi migrants. While we are not against railway connectivity, we want a foolproof mechanism to check entry of migrants even before the project is complete,” KSU president Lambok Starwell Margnar told said. Margner said the KSU has been opposing extension of railways line into Khasi Hills since 1988 “only for this reason”.
The government has, more than once, assured the KSU of a mechanism to check infiltration, but no measure has been taken yet, he said.
“We have repeatedly written to the state government for installing a mechanism to tackle this issue. But since there has been no response, we have resorted to a fresh agitation,” Wellbirth Rani, president of FKJGP said.
Last month, a KSU protest caused damage to several equipment and vehicles of the North East Frontier Railway and some construction companies engaged in the project neat Byrnihat. The first phase of the 108-km Guwahati-Shillong railway connection comprises a 21.5-km stretch that will connect Tetelia near Guwahati to Byrnihat.
The North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), an umbrella body of various students’ outfits, has also extended support to the protest. “We have been opposing construction of railway lines into Meghalaya and Mizoram because there is no component to check entry of illegal migrants,” NESO chairman Samuel Jyrwa said.
The Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council too wants the project to be put on hold. “The North East Frontier Railway authorities have flouted provisions of the Sixth Schedule by not obtaining a No-Objection Certificate from the Autonomous District Council,” the council’s chief executive member P N Siyem said.
CM Mukul Sangma has said that check points similar to those on road entry points to Meghalaya would also be created at railway stations. Directions have been given to authorities to provide such infrastructure in places where stations will be built, he said.